After securing victories in the Henley Royal Regatta’s first and second rounds, the St. Joseph’s Prep’s varsity eight boat lost in the third round of the Princess Elizabeth Cup to England’s Shiplake College on Friday.
The boat from Shiplake College, which is located just outside of Henley-on-Thames, England, where the regatta takes place, edged out the Prep’s boat by 1¾ lengths. The loss came a day after the Hawks engineered a miraculous second-round comeback against Germany’s Flatow-Oberschule School to win by just two feet on Thursday.
Friday’s loss was disappointing for Prep coach John Fife and the rowers. But, with five sophomores, three juniors and just one senior, the boat appears primed to remain competitive in the years to come.
“They’re going to grow a lot in the next year, so that’s going be a big help,” Fife said. “They know that they need to be a lot faster both on the water and on the rowing machines if they want to win this race.”
Having gotten a sense of the level of competition at Henley, Fife said the team is are already planning to return.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the loss, but we’re really proud of what we were able to accomplish over here,” Fife said. “I think all of the guys are really hungry and motivated to get back next year and win the whole thing.”
On Thursday, after an even first half of the race, the German boat began to pull away. But the Prep boat kicked it into high gear for the last 300-plus meters and pulled out the victory to advance to Friday’s race.
“I was watching from the steward’s enclosure, so I couldn’t really see much of the race until the very end. But I was listening to the announcer give us progress updates, so it was pretty stressful at the time,” Fife said. “Every announcement that I was hearing was that we were down, and at one point we were down almost a full boat length, and I was getting pretty discouraged as to our chances. But when they came by me at about 250 meters to go, [the Prep boys] were putting on a really big push. ... That was probably the most impressive Henley race -- or Henley comeback -- I’ve ever seen.”
Fife said it was a significant that the victory came on the Fourth of July.
“We definitely talked about how it’s Independence Day and how we’re representing America,” Fife said. “Especially because we were racing a German crew, I know the guys were really amped up to do America proud.”
The second round’s tight finish came in contrast to the Hawks’s first-round race, which featured the boat in the lead from start to finish in a comfortable win over England’s Canford School by 3½ lengths.